Who Was Carl Jung?

In psychology and psychiatry, Carl Jung’s name is renowned all over the world. He established analytical psychology and furthered the idea of introversion and extroversion, the archetype phenomena (including the brand archetypes in marketing), and the power of the unconscious.

Jung believed in the “complex,” an unconscious organized pattern of emotions, memories, associations, fantasies, perceptions, expectations, and behavioral patterns around a core element accompanied by strong emotions. He worked closely with Sigmund Freud, although he disagreed with him about the sexual basis of neuroses. 

He published numerous works during his lifetime. His ideas have had repercussions beyond the psychiatry field, extending into art, literature, and religion.

Early life and education

Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil, in the canton of Thurgau, Switzerland, on July 26, 1875, the son of a Protestant pastor. As a child, Jung was quiet, observant, and introverted. Although he was often confronted by loneliness as he was an only child at the time, his isolation led him to spend hours observing the actions and roles of adults surrounding him, which, would later influence his later work and career. When Jung was nine, his single-child status ended when a sister, Joanna Gertrude (“Trudi”), was born. When Trudi grew older, she later became a secretary to her older brother.

He also observed the complexities of his parents, which made lifelong impressions on him. His father, Paul, began to show a dwindling belief in religion as he grew older. His mother, Emilie, was an eccentric and depressed woman. She was haunted by a mental illness. When Jung was only three, she left the family to spend temporarily in a psychiatric hospital. Jung seemed destined for the clergy, as there were several clergymen from both sides of his family. But when was in his teens, he went against the family tradition, discovered and read philosophy widely, and entered the University of Basel in 1895. While at the university, he was exposed to several various fields of study – archaeology, biology, paleontology, and religion – before finally settling on medicine.

Early career

Jung graduated from the University of Basel in 1900. That same year, he joined the staff of Burghölzli Asylum of the University of Zürich under Eugen Bleuler, a pioneering psychologist who laid the foundations for what is today regarded as classical studies of mental illnesses.  

At Burghölzli, Jung observed how different stimulus words elicited peculiar and absurd responses from his patients, which he believed represented associations around objectionable, immoral, or sexual content. Jung used the now-famous term “complex” to define these conditions.

Association with Freud

Jung’s budding reputation as a psychiatrist led him to understand the ideas of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, and later, to the man himself.

Jung first met Freud in Vienna in 1907. For the next five years, they closely together, and Freud saw the younger Jung as the heir who, he believed, would continue his work. From being professional partners, Freud and Jung became close friends. However, their differing viewpoints and temperament began to strain their professional relationship and friendship. In particular, Jung questioned Freud’s theories around sexuality as the basis of neurosis. Their disagreement came to a head in 1912 when Jung published the Psychology of the Unconscious, which conflicted with many of Freud’s theories. The tensions between the two men ended their collaboration, and eventually, their friendship. 

Analytical psychology

But the division brought painful consequences for Jung. The elder Freud closed off his inner circle to the young psychologist, while other members of the psychoanalytic community began to shun him as well. Jung had served as president of the International Psychoanalytic Society since 1911; however, he resigned from his post in 1914. 

Undaunted, he went on with the development of his ideas while seeking to further distinguish his work from Freud’s.

Jung adopted the term “analytical psychology” and dug deeper into his work. His first achievement from this early period was the idea of introverts and extroverts and the concept that people can be categorized as one of the two, depending on how they exhibit certain functions of consciousness. Results of his study were published in Psychological Types in 1921.

As a child, Jung experienced remarkably striking vivid dreams and powerful fantasies that had grown with unusual intensity. After his split with Freud, Jung deliberately allowed this aspect of himself to function again and provided his irrational side free expression. At the same time, he studied this aspect in a scientific manner by keeping notes of his bizarre experiences. 

From these experiences, Jung developed the theory that they came from a region of the mind that he referred to as the “collective unconscious,” which he believed was shared by everyone. This often-debatable theory was combined with another theory of archetypes that Jung believed as fundamental to the study of the psychology of religion. According to Jung, archetypes are distinctive patterns, possess a universal character, and are conveyed through behavior and images.

Later life

During his later years, Jung traveled around the globe to give lectures and study different cultures. He published several books about his findings, including Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933) and The Undiscovered Self (1957). Jung also held several professorships, including his posts at the University of Basel and the Federal Polytechnical in Zurich.

He married Emma Rauschenbach in 1903. She showed a strong interest in her husband’s work, threw herself into his studies, became his assistant, and helped him to become a prominent psychoanalyst. She eventually became a psychoanalyst in her own right. The Jungs had five children and remained married until Emma’s death in 1955, six years before his own death.

Jung died at his home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, on June 6, 1961, aged 85.